“Emergency Window” – Mysore, India, January 2, 2013
There is an engaging sadness in the expression of the main subject; a pre-emptive longing for a friend yet to depart. The lady on the train seems more cheery, as though she is reassuring her friend. It is, after all, saddest for those left behind, who have to go on as before with the acute absence of the departed. Yet while departures can presage adventure and possibility, sufficient to distract from the missing, or a welcome homecoming to familiar comforts, they can also be a sorry return to quotidian drudgery. Either way, it is so often the case that when someone close expresses an unconstrained sorrow, the other is driven to optimism and persuasive reinforcement, which often masks the true sadness that lies beneath.
This train window farewell took place in Mysore, a lovely, tidy and well-run city with by far the most attractive old market I’ve ever come across. Originally I gave it the title of “Emergency Window” as the full composition includes a notice above the opening which seemed neatly to compliment the solace emanating from the passenger. The title stands though this symmetry has been removed. On the subject of symmetry, perhaps it is just their identical facing, yet the two women in focus, looking left of frame, not the moving passer-by, appear similar enough to be related. I’ve always assumed it was mother and daughter, though this is just as likely mere inference.
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Venice, Rialto Bridge, March 9, 2007
During the day the Rialto Bridge in Venice is a very busy place. Whatever the season or weather, the bridge is not merely a tourist magnet, but one of the key central crossing points along the Grand Canal and is thus rarely free of people. This is the case for much of the centre of Venice – being as beautiful as it is, the streets are often packed with both locals and foreigners. Things certainly quieten down in the off-season, but the thinning of the crowds starts from the outside in and the Grand Canal retains its floating population.
At night, however, particularly in the colder months, the streets can become surprisingly empty and a welcome quiet descends upon La Serenissima. The freedom to stroll leisurely and alone through the streets, hearing the soft scuff of one’s feet on the flagstones is a rare and beautiful thing. It gives Venice back its subtlety and romance, hidden behind the hubbub of the busy days. It is then that the city’s antiquity and its strange melancholy become most apparent; the precarious decay, the suggestive gloom, the orange of lamps and jade of the luminescent canals seem as genuinely characteristic as the glittering palazzi reflected in the sunlit waters.
This photograph reminds me of the quiet and empty nights I experienced in Venice on my four visits there in various years. Be it March, April, October or November, there were always nights on which the crowds completely dispersed and the streets were free to wander through, unhurried or interrupted by others. This photo is of the stairs leading down the eastern side of the Rialto Bridge of a couple whose dynamic silhouettes captured my attention. I’ve always liked this shot on account of its movement; the setting remains so still, the bridge’s marble polished by millions of visitors, but the couple are wonderfully expressive without meaning to be so. They seem so sexy and alive while around them the city eases into sullen silence.
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